The National Rifle Association is currently struggling with inner turmoil after former president and current Executive Vice President Wayne Lapierre sent a letter accusing Col. Oliver North (who was, until this morning, NRA president) of blackmailing him into resigning.
The battle is taking place at the worst possible moment for the organization — right in the middle of its annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. On Saturday morning, North was supposed to appear on a panel alongside Lapierre, but as The Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski reported on Twitter, the former U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel didn’t show up, instead providing a letter offering his resignation.
“Breaking: Oliver North is NOT at the NRA members meeting,” Gutowski tweeted. “Wayne Lapierre is here, by the way, and came out to a standing ovation.”
An empty spot remained on stage where North should have been.
Richard Childress, former NASCAR driver and CEO of Richard Childress Racing, read a letter from North saying he had been forced out of the organization over his allegations of financial mismanagement, sexual harassment (not from or against him), and excessive expenses.
North had spoken at the NRA's annual meeting Friday morning, but was seen leaving the event for the airport, Gutowski reported.
Lapierre, in a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal, accused North of threatening to go public with his allegations if the executive vice president did not resign immediately.
“I believe the purpose of the letter was to humiliate me, discredit our Association, and raise appearances of impropriety that hurt our members and the Second Amendment,” Lapierre wrote. “The letter would contain a devastating account of our financial status, sexual harassment charges against a staff member, accusations of wardrobe expenses and excessive staff travel expenses.”
Importantly, Lapierre claimed: “Col. North explained that the letter would not be sent – if I were to promptly resign as your Executive Vice President. And, if I supported Col. North’s continued tenure as President, he stated that he could 'negotiate' an 'excellent retirement' for me.”
The accusations were prompted by an NRA lawsuit against one of the organization’s vendors, Ackerman McQueen (AM). Lapierre alleged in his letter that AM joined North in blackmailing the executive vice president.
After a phone call with North, Lapierre wrote, “others informed me that I needed to withdraw the NRA lawsuit against AM or be smeared.”
Lapierre went on to write that the allegations against the organization that would be contained in a damaging letter were never made during his 40-year relationship with AM. “They are conveniently making them now – only as they face scrutiny in a Virginia court and the prospect of having to comply with our demand for books and records,” Lapierre wrote.
The New York Times then reported that North had “created a committee to review allegations of financial improprieties that threaten the NRA’s status as a nonprofit organization.”
In its lawsuit against AM, the Times reported, the NRA alleged the firm was overbilling the gun-rights organization and that North had a conflict of interest in the matter because he was also paid by AM. The lawsuit claimed AM refused to provide financial records as part of the NRA’s “review of contractors it was conducting amid the threats of aggressive regulatory action,” the Times reported.